When I first saw the invitation of tour of hope, I got interested for a couple of things. Its an opportunity to do a Manila to Baguio ride in comfort and convenience (everything will be take care of by the organizers plus great accommodations subsidized by the tour), meet other people of the same interest, ride for a cause, and ride were majority of the riders are females (which doesn’t often happen here in the Philippines), do a multi day ride and an opportunity to do a possible future segment of our planed bike tour around the Philippines.
Only two of us from our group were able to join the tour- Dindo Narciso and myself (As during that time, I was still out of job so I have the time to join the ride- how I miss those days!). On the day of the ride, we assembled at the open park near the University of Makati. Rodel Palisoc was riding with us but only on day 1 and up to San Fernando in Pampanga only. After a short program we were given a “send-off” with big fanfare towards EDSA. EDSA during the rush hour?! I don’t have problems riding and weaving on heavy traffic (and I also got quite a number of EDSA rides during my Firefly Brigade volunteer days) but I was worried for the ladies most especially the newbies who seems virginal in terms of riding the busy and crazy roads of Manila. True to expected, there were a few who fell down, unable to unclip in the stop and go traffic at EDSA though, thank God there were no serious injuries encountered. Only shaken nerves and ego perhaps.
At the first major stop at SM Valenzuela, we found Senator Pia Cayetano at a corner so we grabbed the opportunity for picture taking. It was election season so we were considering having our hands raised as if in anointment and see if we can have a future career in politics. We proceeded for our next stop at a
Shell Station in Bulacan. During that segment, actress Maricel Laxa got into a minor accident but was still able to ride after resting in the service van to compose herself for the next segment’s ride. This early in the Tour, we found out that this Tour of Hope is not really a fun ride with each riders riding shoulder to shoulder singing Kumbaya. Most participants were triathletes (majority from David’s Salon, TriPolo etc.), they were not shy of showing their stuff and challenging one another and since there were no rules except that one just needs to go to the designated pit stops, the fun ride became a race ride unless you don’t have any issues of being the last man to arrive.
There were only 4 of us in mountain bikes and the two, including Rodel was only there for day 1, so it was only Dindo and me who were on MTB for the next 4 days of the ride. And Dindo was in 1.25 slicks while I in my 1.95 knobbies. We arrived at Pampanga a few hours later then after a short welcome program in San Fernando (part of the Tour was the conduct of cervical cancer symposiums at end point destinations whose participants then acts as our welcoming committee, complete with fanfare) we proceeded to Clark for our day 1 accommodations. The buffet lunch was great but while we were eating our lunch, the triathletes were still running and/or swimming so that early on, we also found out that we were riding with cyborgs. As if
the hundred kilometres ride were still not enough. Dindo and I didn’t stayed in the hotel with the group on day 1 as we stayed with his relatives in Pampanga. We started our drinking session in the evening while thinking that the other participants were already doing their power sleep. Juboy Wilkomm joined us that night as he was still based then in Clark.
The next day, it was our Clark to Tarlac leg. On the first portion of the ride, we stuck with Pia Cayetano’s peloton to give us a manageable phase (rest) but we were bombarded with his campaign jingle as his campaign entourage was with her. That jingle ranged in our ears even days after the completion of the tour. One plus though; when we were riding side by side with Pia, we were also able to wave to the crowds as if part of his entourage. Juboy also joined us only for this leg as well as another MMS member, Rosan Cruz. It was not really that far so I was thinking it was sort of a rest day. But the organizers have other plans. After arriving in Tarlac, we went to Gerona and entered the back roads towards Gapan prolonging the route to hit another century ride. In the last open roads, the phase was really fast- a racing phase as if the triathletes went loose. So I and Dindo tried to keep up. I fell from the peloton a few kilometres before the pit stop. It was already hot and humid so it was a crawl back to Luisita. After a lunch in Luisita, we went to Days Inn and rested early as we were already tired. We woke up later for dinner and after dinner, we were able to form a sub-group, an alliance, which we called the “non-career group”- the non triathletes- composed of Tristan Choa, Paolo Castaneda, me and Dindo. This alliance grows once in a while when there are other career riders who need an excuse to be left out. We started that night by drinking wine and beer, again while the other did their power sleeps.
The next day was a ride to Dagupan via the back roads. The group was scattered early on as the racing started as early as the gun fired. One triathlete was nudged by a bus but she was still ok. After reaching Dagupan, it was the same ritual that day- lunch, rest, go out and drank then dinner then sleep. Tension was rising for the Marcos hi-way leg, the most difficult leg as we near day 5. Some of our drinking buddies passed off as they wanted to rest for the big day. Though Dindo and I already did a climb to Baguio via Kenon, Marcos is a much longer route- meaning a much longer suffering.
On the 4th day, from Dagupan, we went to San Fernando La Union and had our small taste of climbs. The end of the leg was a steep climb to the provincial capitol. After that we went to the hotel and had our lunch. After lunch and a quick rest, Dindo and I explored outside and found this American bar near the hotel. It was our drinking session time but this time, again only the two of us were present as the others were seriously preparing for the Baguio climb.
Day 5. The big day! Everyone was jittery as we regrouped at the base of the climb. Though we were surprised that we were able to ride side by side with the group for the last 4 days, this day, our muscles were already sore. At the start of the climb, everyone has its own tactics. Others phased themselves, others exerted immediately while others were just figuring out how to survive the climb. I would say, being mountain bikers,
has some advantage, even though we might not be as though as the alpha riders, we were confident we will survive this as we did the other mountains we have explored. Surprisingly, we were able to pass even some strong road bikers on the way up. The last uphill climb was the most memorable leg of this tour in term sof suffering. It was a successful tour after a regroup before entering Baguio but it was marred by an accident in the last minute when one of the David Salon riders, maybe due to exhaustion went straight ahead to a concrete wall in break neck speed (now I know where that term came from). He was rushed to the hospital immediately. We regrouped at Burnham for the end of the race with a portable studio by Jun De Leon for our souvenir framed shot. After lunch we left the group as I and Dindo will be staying at Dindo’s place in Baguio. In the evening, we attended the victory celebration party were everyone had the opportunity to further meet each other.
After the ride, Both I and Dindo concluded that, this is indeed a good tour to join and we look forward for future editions.
Here are the particiapnts of the ride: Veron Medina, David Charlton, Max Telford, Jeena Lopez, Ernie Lopez, Joyette Jopson, Mathieu O’halloran, Popo Nagtalon, Marita Lucas, Carmela Serina, Kaye Lopez, Iday Rosuman, Mier Zapanta, Jola Niebres, Rona Garnica, Sherwina Reyes, Cecille Dimaquibo, Anie Lyn Abdon, Eilyn Manipon, Jennefer Castillo, Ma. Teresa Lopez, Princess Decrepito, Candy, Alvin Alindogan, Coach Gado, Delfin Garciano, Leon De Ocampo, Ralph Ong, Long Henson, Dindo Narciso, Skipper Pineda, Rome Jorge, Luis Paolo Castaneda, Joey Torres, Chesca Carpo, Joey Carpo, Jon-jon Rufino, Fiona Ottiger, Will Ottiger, Bea Locsin, Leana Carmona, Monica Alturra, Albert Alturra, Geraldine Santiago, Raffy Ocampo, Raj Moreno, Cliff Eala, Kirk Arambulo, Rosan Cruz, Marge Buot, Nino Fajardo, Vice Mayor Itchon, Sen Pia Cayetano, Maricel Laxa, Mymy Dabao, Henri Ataki, Derrick Sim, Roberto Taboada, Atty Marc Cox